Tips for managing the holiday blues

December 06, 2018


  • The holidays can make us stressed, anxious or depressed.
  • While this isn't unusual, it's important to take care of yourself this season.

The holiday season is upon us. 

Everybody needs to be happy. Everything has to be perfect. We will set aside any accumulated grievances and frustrations that have troubled us over the past year.

Except when we can’t.

Holidays can be warm, festive, fulfilling times. But when they are not — and for many, they aren’t — the dissonance between the expectations and reality can be crushing. This is not rare, nor should it make anyone feel ashamed. Many people simply feel out of sync with the seasonal festivities and the stress they can create. The good news is that seasonal depression is usually temporary, though no less serious than clinical depression that can occur at any and all times of the year.

Seasonal depression, like clinical depression, can make it hard to concentrate, to remember things, to carry out normal activities, even to be around people. Losses may feel keener and fresher around the holidays.

Let’s talk about some of the ways you can take care of yourself this season.

Coping with the blues

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has helped guide many through temporary depression symptoms.

Some of the symptoms that mark holiday anxiety and depression include:
  • Fatigue
  • Frustration
  • Tension
  • Loneliness, or a feeling of isolation
  • Sadness
  • A sense of loss
NAMI offers some tips to help see you through the stressful season. For example:
  • Stick to your usual routines.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Even if the holidays throw you into gatherings you’d rather avoid, balance them by spending time around caring, supportive people.
  • Eat and drink in moderation.
  • Get some exercise, even if only a brisk walk.
  • Don’t overcommit to scheduled events; just attend the things that you must, or want to.
  • Keep your goals reasonable, whether they involve sending cards, making food, or spending money.
  • Volunteer at a local charity or non-profit.

More resources

Swedish has expert and compassionate caregivers who are trained in helping you manage depression. Learn the facts: Depression is a common, treatable condition

Learn more about Swedish behavioral health programs. To connect with trained behavioral health caregivers at Swedish, visit our provider directory.

The World Health Organization (WHO) produced a useful video called “I Had a Black Dog and His Name Was Depression.” It notes that keeping up an emotional facade is exhausting, and that “the black dog is an equal-opportunity mongrel.” But it can be managed.

The WHO offers extensive statistics, tips and resources created for its global campaign on depression.

If you feel hopeless and desperate due to depression, help is available:
  • Call your health care provider and tell them it is urgent
  • Call 9-1-1
  • Go to the emergency department at your local hospital
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
  • Call the 24-hour Crisis Line  1-866-427-4747

Take care of yourself this season. We want you to enjoy healthy celebrations for many years to come.

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Recommended for you:
Winter depression: Strategies for prevention and treatment
Protect your heart from holiday heart syndrome
How to help someone in the midst of a mental health crisis

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

Topics: Services, Wellness